CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In just over a week, tens of thousands of visitors will be in Charlotte for the NBA All-Star Game, and women’s advocates say sex traffickers are getting ready for the big event, too.
During this year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta, the FBI charged 169 people during an 11-day investigation into human trafficking in connection with sex trafficking.
Channel 9 learned local officials will be watching for the same type of activity next week in Charlotte.
"I was not surprised, not at all,” said women’s advocate Pat Krikorian. “I'm surprised the number wasn't higher.”
Krikorian, who helps women rescued from the sex trade, said criminals are already preparing for the NBA All-Star Weekend.
"They're getting customers together,” Krikorian said. “They’re getting the ladies and children and men that they use for their slavery, organizing them, getting appointments together.”
Channel 9 learned that local law enforcement agencies are preparing as well.
While officers can't share their specific operations, Krikorian says she's on standby to help the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and other agencies if they rescue women during the week.
“FBI is getting prepared, Homeland Security people are getting prepared, because they anticipate this will be happening on a large scale,” Krikorian said.
Sex trafficking is a multi-trillion dollar industry, often catering to powerful people with money, which is why traffickers are attracted to major events like the NBA All-Star Game.
Police say many of the victims of sex trafficking are forced to participate in this lifestyle, and some are just kids.
Police want the public to be on the lookout for strange activity or people being held against their will.
The FBI sent Channel 9 this statement: "Sex trafficking can happen anytime, not just when there is a large event taking place. The FBI Human Trafficking Task Force works daily to combat the problem and offer services to victims."
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